Wrongly Jailed Oakland Man Gets $3 Million

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A federal appeals panel Tuesday affirmed a $3.2 million award to an Oakland man and his girlfriend in a false arrest and imprisonment case in which the man claimed Oakland officers planted a gun on him.

    A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Magistrate Judge Edward Chen did not abuse his discretion in awarding the money to Torry Smith and Patricia Gray on March 17, 2008.

    Chen found that a civil rights trial that ended in November 2007 with a favorable verdict for Smith and Gray was fair, but reduced the jury's $6 million award to Smith and Gray to $3 million, saying that the amount awarded to Smith for emotional distress was excessive.

    But he kept in place the jury's punitive damages award of $100,000 against each of the two Oakland police officers, John Parkinson and Marcus Midyett, who arrested Smith in 2004.

    Smith, now 27, claimed in his lawsuit that he was falsely accused by the officers of possessing a rifle and that he was wrongly kept in jail for more than four months while an unjustified charge of parole violation was being processed. While in jail he was also awaiting two preliminary hearings, both of which resulted in dismissal of the charges.

    Smith was arrested at his home in Oakland on Sept. 10, 2004, by Parkinson and Midyett, who said they saw him trying to hide an assault rifle under some stairs at the back of his house. He claimed the officers planted the rifle.

    At the time, Smith was on parole with the California Youth Authority for a juvenile offense. The officers came to his house after they found his bank card in the car belonging to the girlfriend of a paroled drug dealer they were investigating.

    Chen wrote in his ruling that the jury found Smith's "version of the events more plausible" than the officers' version.

    Smith was released in late January 2005 after the criminal charges and the parole revocation charge were dismissed. In their appeal, Parkinson and Midyett challenged the jury  instructions and the admissibility of evidence in the civil trial.

    Bay City News